On March 15, 2011, a war erupted within Syria. It began when civil protests, born out of discontent with the Syrian government, were violently suppressed. The protests turned into an armed conflict that has continued for nine years — spread throughout the country — and caused one of the largest refugee crises of the 21st century.

Inside Syria, the conflict has displaced millions of individuals seeking refuge from violence in order to protect the lives of their families. They’ve left their homes, jobs, and communities behind in order to survive. Since the start of the conflict, over 5 million people have fled Syria – seeking safety in Lebanon, Turkey and other places.

Medical Teams International launched a humanitarian response to the Syrian crisis in Lebanon in 2013. Today, there are 1.5 million Syrian refugees living in Lebanon.

Noura, age 60, fled to Lebanon with her family in 2013, leaving everything they owned behind. In the middle of the night, rebels came to her village and brutally killed 15 of her neighbors. Her house was burned to the ground, and their cars were stolen. Noura now lives in Lebanon with her five sons and two daughters. Though they have refuge from the war in Syria, life in the settlement is an ongoing struggle.

syrian refugee, Noura, with her family in their home
Noura, here with her family, came to Medical Teams because she struggles with hypertension. 

“Life is not getting any easier after nine years. Syrian refugees are still struggling for health and basic needs such as water and food,” said Samira Youssef, Medical Teams’ Lebanon Program Manager.

“Refugees are not able to afford basic needs nor health care,” she said.

The informal refugee settlements in Lebanon are not set up to offer adequate protection from the elements, especially when it comes to children’s health. The land floods during winter, the tents are either too hot or too cold throughout the year, and infectious diseases spread easily.

“Medical Teams has been working with individuals who struggled to reach a safe space, seeking a land that could protect their children and loved ones,” Samira said.

flooding lebanon refugee settlement
Though the tent settlements in Lebanon provide refuge from war, there is little protection from the elements – including intense heat, cold, and flooding. This is a picture of flooding in the settlement in 2019.

Medical Teams’ Community Health Worker program in Lebanon provides a glimmer of hope in the darkest of times, providing Syrian refugees with a way to help their communities. Community Health Workers volunteer to spread awareness about maternal, child and mental health. They check in on patients suffering from chronic diseases. This kind of support helps in preventing communicable diseases, improving child health, lowering stress and reducing complications from chronic diseases. Their support helps bring hope to a hurting community.

With no end to the Syrian war in sight, it’s a daily challenge for a Syrian refugee to hold on to hope while fighting to keep their family healthy and safe.

“For the future, refugees are hoping to get back home and to live a life without fears,” Samira said.

While the hope of conflict settling in Syria is uncertain, the refugee families we work with in Lebanon take each day at a time — moving forward with strength and resilience.

Learn more about how you can support our work with Syrian refugees in Lebanon here.